Take Control of Chronic Pain with Complementary Treatments that Can Help You Cope

Take Control of Chronic Pain with Complementary Treatments that Can Help You Cope
Chronic pain can rob you of your health, happiness and quality of life. September is National Pain Awareness Month, a good reminder to evaluate your patient’s, family member’s or personal pain management strategy and put the focus on living the fullest life possible with chronic pain. A growing body of evidence suggests that some complementary approaches, such as acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, spinal manipulation and yoga, may help to manage some painful conditions.

Explore Complementary Treatments for Chronic Pain

Many people use medical treatments that are not part of mainstream medicine.
  • If a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary.”
  • If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.”

Some well-known examples of complementary treatments include the following:

Acupuncture: The technique of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms. It has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years. Research has shown that acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemotherapy. It can also relieve pain.
QuickNote: Battlefield Acupuncture (auricular acupuncture) is inserting a prescribed series of needles into the surface of the ear to provide relief for many types of pain. It may be useful for managing pain and reducing the use of pain medication.
Aromatherapy: Using plant oils that give off strong, pleasant aromas (smells) to promote relaxation, a sense of well-being and healing. The smells can be breathed in or used in baths or massages. People use aromatherapy to help them deal with stress or to help with fatigue. Biofeedback: A method of learning to voluntarily control certain body functions such as heartbeat, blood pressure and muscle tension with the help of a special machine. This method can help control pain using relaxation techniques or guided imagery (focusing on pleasant images). Dietary supplements: A dietary supplement usually contains one or more dietary ingredient (e.g., vitamin, mineral, herb). It is also called a nutritional supplement. Hypnosis: A trance-like state in which a person becomes more aware and focused on particular thoughts, feelings, images, sensations or behaviors. While under hypnosis, a person may feel calm, relaxed and more open to suggestion. Hypnosis is usually done with the help of a specially trained therapist. It may be used to help relieve stress, anxiety and pain, and to help a person quit smoking or lose weight. Massage therapy: A treatment in which the soft tissues of the body are kneaded, rubbed, tapped and stroked. Massage therapy may help people relax, relieve stress and pain, lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Meditation:Meditation is a mind and body practice. It involves focusing attention to achieve calmness and heightened energy and awareness. There are many different ways to meditate, such as using a man­tra (e.g., “om”), looking at an object or focusing on breath. Examples of meditation include the following:
  • Mindfulness meditation: Focusing on specific experiences during medita­tion (e.g., breathing, thoughts)
  • Guided meditation: Forming mental images of places or situations you find relaxing
  • Transcendental meditation: Repeating a mantra in a specific way to achieve inner peace
  • Yoga: Performing a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises
  • Tai chi: Slowly performing a series of movements while practicing deep breathing
Spinal manipulation: Practitioners use their hands or a device to apply a controlled force to a joint of the spine. The amount of force depends on the form of manipulation used. The goal is to relieve pain and improve physical functioning. Sometimes called “spinal manipulative therapy,” it is practiced by health care professionals such as chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, naturopathic physicians, physical therapists and some medical doctors.

Make the Most of Every Health Visit

Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.  Also ask your health care provider about complementary treatments you are thinking about trying. It can help to tell your health care provider:
  • Why you are considering the treatment.
  • What you hope the treatment will do to make you feel better.
Complementary techniques should not be used to replace conventional care or post­pone seeing your health care provider about a health problem. For more information, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. For more information on various Health and Wellness products available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Take Control: Life with Chronic Pain.